American Express Delta Reserve vs. AmEx Platinum: Benefits Showdown

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The American Express Platinum and the Delta American Express cards are known for their status: these are premium credit cards, carried less for their rewards rate (and certainly not for saving on annual fees) than for the luxury benefits that they deliver. In fact, the AmEx Delta comes in three forms: the Gold, the Platinum, and the high-brow Reserve, which differ in perks and fees. But given that the Delta Reserve has the same annual fee as the AmEx Platinum, which card deserves our respect?

Credit or charge?

The first vital difference between the American Express Delta Reserve and the AmEx Platinum is that the former is a credit card, while the latter is a charge card. Credit cards allow you to have some debt outstanding at the end of the billing period, and pay it back over time with interest. They come with credit limits, prohibiting you from borrowing more than a certain amount. And they impact your credit score, for better or for worse. Charge cards, on the other hand, have no pre-set spending limit but require you to pay your balance in full each month or face severe penalties. Charge cards do not impact your credit score, since you aren’t extended a line of credit.

The showdown

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we’ll move on to the main event: can the AmEx Platinum’s much-lauded benefits stand up against the Delta Reserve’s? Both have the same annual fee—$450—and 1% base rewards rate. But past that, the cards’ paths diverge.

The Delta offers double miles when you spend at the airline itself, and also has a signup bonus of 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles to move you closer towards elite status. You can earn an additional MQM boost of up to 30k miles if you spend in excess of $60,000 a year.

The AmEx Platinum pays out not in Delta miles but in Membership Rewards points, one of the best rewards programs out there. You can transfer points 1:1 to most airlines and hotels, or redeem for gift cards and the occasional travel option, all at full value. As a Platinum cardholder, you can also get an advance on your points of up to 60,000 points.

Here’s a breakdown of each card’s benefits:

American Express Platinum American Express Delta Winner
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. 10,000 Delta Miles Bonus Platinum
Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, as well as select Airspace and Delta Sky Club lounges 50% off access to Delta Sky Club ($25 off) Platinum
$200 airline incidentals credit 1 free checked bag for up to 9 people Delta
Lost bag and travel insurance; return, purchase and warranty protection; Global Assist; concierge Tie
Pay with Points Pay with Miles Tie
  • Partner hotel benefits
  • Ticket return protection
  • Global Entry
None Platinum
First/business class companion ticket for $78 1 free companion ticket/year Depends
Membership Rewards points advance No points advance Platinum

In the end, it’s going to be a subjective decision. Delta’s free checked bag benefit is extremely lucrative, saving to $50 per person roundtrip. That’s far better than the Platinum’s $200 incidentals credit.

The Platinum has better lounge access: Priority Pass gets you into about 600 lounges worldwide, while Delta lounges don’t have that coverage. You also get much better fringe benefits, like benefits at AmEx’s partner hotels and a credit to the Global Entry program, which lets you skip customs lines.

Past that, you need to make a decision about what you prefer. If you often fly business or first class, you’ll prefer the Platinum’s unlimited companion tickets. If you don’t, Delta’s more flexible about their companion tickets, though you only get one a year.

However, we tend to err on the side of Platinum. If you’re springing for a $450 annual fee, you probably prefer the finer things in life. And when it comes to small (and some not so small) luxuries, the Platinum beats out the Delta card by sheer number of shiny perks.

  • Michael L Warren II

    there is some confusion between the Delta Reserve and the Delta Platinum. The Reserve, you do get free access to Delta Skyclub. The Delta Platinum, the fee is $25.

    • disqus_7zwqtTNisu

      False, both cards get in the Skyclubs for free and $25 per guest thereafter.

      • Michael L Warren II

        nope, the Delta Platinum does not. You may be referring to the American Express Platinum

    • Thinkabkut

      The Delya skyclub access is really hit or miss with the reserve card. I get turned away from Skyclubs more often than you would think. Or offered to pay $50 to get in. Delta a tells me to call Amex, Amex tells me to call Delta. Given that I have some very Ong layovers I have spent considerable time trying to track it down. Also Delta does not upgrade on international flights. So the upgrade priority only applies to domestic flights. I have sat in a middle seat looking at a half empty business class as a Gold Medalion Memeber.
      For $495 year you would think it would get you past the frustration of these two issues.

  • Damon Levy

    Isn’t the primary advantage of the Delta Reserve the 30k MQMs that you can get? That’s a full additional level (Silver to Gold or Gold to Platinum), which is very valuable for upgrades.

  • Chris Chen

    I have the AmEx Platinum, AmEx Starwood and AmEx Delta Gold cards. I need to consolidate and was wondering if the Delta Reserve was the right move to replace them or should I just keep the AmeX Platinum and cancel the other two. I stay at SPG properties and always prefer to fly with Delta but I also love the Sky Club lounges. this is such a headache. I had to pay for fees for all 3 cards. Thanks.

  • Mark P

    The American Express Platinum charge card lets you transfer membership rewards points to your Delta Skymiles account, and other partner rewards programs. However, they charge a transfer fee of .60 per 1,000 points. They claim it`s a federal excise tax they are required to pay. What puzzles me is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card does not charge a fee to transfer points to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United Mileage Plus, or any other partner rewards program. Why would one company claim they have to charge it when another company does not?